Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/509 Ireland (Prime Minister's meetings with the Taoiseach (Garret Fitzgerald); Anglo-Irish Summit, November 1981) (Part 5) 1981 Oct 22 1981 Nov 6 2011 Dec 30 Secret 224
PREM19/169 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 12) 1980 Nov 11 1980 Nov 24 2010 Dec 30 Secret 220
PREM19/2667 European Policy (European Council meeting, Madrid, June 1989) (Part 34) 1989 Jun 27 1989 Jul 17 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1808 Iran (Internal situation: Anglo-Iranian relations) (Part 9) 1981 Feb 23 1986 Dec 12 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1493 Fishing Industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy) (Part 5) 1981 Sep 22 1985 Jun 14 2014 Dec 30 Confidential 331
PREM19/1157 Manpower (Measures to counter unemployment) (Part 8) 1982 Sep 6 1983 Jan 24 2013 Aug 1 Secret 294
PREM19/1099 Parliament (Future of Concorde aircraft; financial aspects; discussions with French) 1980 Dec 12 1983 Mar 17 2013 Aug 1 Secret 289
PREM19/762 Germany (Anglo-German relations; exchanges between Chancellor Schmidt and the Prime Minister) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 6 1982 Feb 19 2012 Dec 28 Confidential 271
PREM19/139 Anguilla (Legislation for separation of Anguilla from St Kitts-Nevis) 1980 Mar 26 1980 Oct 22 2010 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/2218 Home Affairs (Home Secretary's seminar on crime prevention, June 1986, and subsequent action) (Part 2) 1986 Apr 10 1987 Jul 24 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/430 Economic policy (Inland Revenue computer project: computerisation of PAYE; future of International Computers Limited (ICL)) 1979 Dec 4 1981 Mar 9 2011 Dec 30 Secret 241
PREM19/1125 Royal family (Prince of Wales' article, 'Help for Self-Help', for publication in The Economist) 1983 Mar 11 1983 Mar 18 Closed until 2024-01-01 Unknown
PREM19/2515 Security (The Hijacking Declaration of the Bonn Summit, July 1978: prevention of international terrorist activity) (Part 5) 1986 Jun 2 1988 May 25 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1756 European Policy (European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): impact of European Court of Human Rights findings on UK domestic law) (Part 1) 1980 Nov 12 1986 May 15 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/1413 Aerospace (Space policy: formation of British National Space Centre (BNSC)) (Part 1) 1980 Jun 20 1985 Nov 29 2014 Dec 30 Secret 265

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